Boundaries

About a week or so ago, I came across a video on Facebook from an interview with Brené Brown. As usual, I was captivated by what she had to say.

In this interview she talks about the importance of boundaries, and how empathy and compassion go hand in hand with having good boundaries, which is something I haven’t realized until now.

Then, a couple of days ago, I also came across an article on the topic of boundaries. It felt like the universe giving me a sign. So since then, I’ve been thinking about it a lot.

I’m sensitive to other people’s energies, and tend to take their feelings on as my own. If someone is stressed and overwhelmed, even if I was in a peaceful mood, I suddenly become just as agitated as they are.

This leads to me feeling as though I need to “fix” them. That it’s my responsibility to make them feel better. Could this perhaps be a selfish thing? By making them feel better, or doing things that I think would make them feel better in such a situation, isn’t that just an attempt at making myself feel better? Almost like saying “I don’t like that you’re feeling this way, it’s making me uncomfortable because what you’re feeling, I’m also experiencing.”

When I look at it this way, then in this interview, when Brené says that some of the most compassionate people she knows are also some of the most boundaried, then her words make sense. If I have good boundaries, I won’t be taking on the other person’s emotions, but will rather be able to keep a healthy distance. And that will help me better support that person. Does this make sense?

I’ve realized that because I don’t have firm boundaries when it comes to what I let in, I’m almost constantly emotionally exhausted. I can’t, and don’t want to, do this anymore. It’s not healthy.

I got to practice this just yesterday. Elizabeth was upset with someone who had crossed one of her boundaries and was being rude and disrespectful. She had walked away from this person in order to get some distance, because she was feeling overwhelmed and didn’t want to say something she might regret. I listened to her, and really focused on what she was saying and the feelings she was expressing.

Just being present with her there in that moment, but mentally picturing a bubble around each of us, helped me gain that necessary distance between her emotions and mine. I could still empathize with her, and offer compassion, but her emotions didn’t affect me negatively. I wasn’t able to keep it up for very long though, but I think this is one of those things that we become better at with continued practice. The little bit I managed to do already helped quite a lot.

When she was feeling calmer, I told her I’m going to go do my own thing for a while, while she speaks to the person who had upset her. I went to the room, put on some music, and worked on some photo’s. I wasn’t feeling overwhelmed, like I would have and managed to let go of the little bits of negative emotions that she had expressed. Knowing that those emotions weren’t mine, I was able to more easily return to my own equilibrium.

Boundaries are so important. And they aren’t selfish. After all, you can’t be there for someone if you’re so overwhelmed yourself due to having weak boundaries. In 2018 I’m going to focus on strengthening my own, and implementing them more effectively. I only realized, after watching the video, and reading the article, just how much I’ve been negatively affected by other people and situations. Unnecessarily so, because I haven’t had proper boundaries established. It’s my responsibility to look after my mental and physical well-being. Not having the right boundaries in place, has made me give my power over to situations and other people. My goal is to work on that. I’ve already started, and I know I can do this.

Here’s the video for anyone who’s interested:

You can find the article here:

10 Great Things That Happen When You Set Boundaries

Wishing you all a wonderful 2018. Thanks for all your support this year.

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Excitement, And The Power Of A Hug

I was just going to write about something really great that happened on Monday, but there’s something else that happened last night that I want to share as well. So this post might also be a long one.

After a year and four months, it’s finally happening. I’m going to see my mom and little sisters again!

My mom sent me a text on Monday morning, saying “I wonder when I’m going to see Rayne again”, with a GIF of a monkey scratching his head. That was really cute and funny. I showed it to my step-mom as well. I often share these kinds of things with them and vice versa. I sent that same GIF back to her saying “I’m wondering the same thing.” A few hours later I was surprised with a flight ticket and rental car! My dad, with nudging from my step-mom (whose idea it was- bless her heart), decided to use their reward points to get me that ticket. They had so many points that they didn’t have a pay a cent for it. That’s pretty cool. I was so happy, and the gratitude I felt, almost made me burst into tears. I also felt this great sense of relief. I’m just not sure what the relief is about.

It’s my mom’s birthday today, and she hates her birthday. My flight is for next week Wednesday. I wanted to tell her on Monday already, but thought today would be a better time to do it. So I video called her this morning, and told her that I have a special gift for her this year. My youngest little sister was with my mom at the time, so she was also in on the call. When I told them that I’m coming next week, they both started screaming. Seeing their faces, oh my heart. I’ll never forget that moment.

And guess what? I’m also going to see my therapist in person again! I can’t wait! Although I’m also a little nervous for some reason.

I went to group last night, and really enjoyed it. D was leading it. Before group, while we were in the coffee shop, one of the guys came around to the table I was sitting at with some of the girls. He kissed one of them on the cheek, and attempted to do the same with me. I told him “no” and pulled my face away. He laughed and tried again, but not coming too close this time. Like in a playful manner. But I stuck to my boundaries and didn’t give in, like I would have in the past. Too afraid of offending the person. One of the girls told him that I don’t like it when guys touch me. I was surprised when she said that, because I didn’t know that she “got it”. I told him I’d give him a hug instead. Afterward he said “but you touched me” and I told him that it’s because I initiated it, and therefore I was more comfortable with it.

I’m becoming more comfortable with talking and sharing during the group. That’s progress. This group is so good and valuable for me. After I was done talking and sharing last night, my inner critic showed up. I didn’t quite articulate myself very well. I stumbled a little over my thoughts and words, but not in a very obvious way. Some things came out in ways that I didn’t intend, and were incomplete. But I told that critic to shut up. The important thing is that I’m trying. This is all new to me, so of course I’m going to struggle a bit at first. It’s like a baby taking her first steps. She’s going to be awkward at first. She’s going to struggle and stumble. But she doesn’t give up, she keeps getting back up and trying again. Eventually she’s walking with ease. I’ll get there too.

We were talking about values yesterday, which is part of Interpersonal Effectiveness in DBT. We did a fun activity. But at some point during that activity I started feeling this depression sink in. When the activity was over and we started going through the skill, I started to feel worse. I still struggle with values. With knowing who I want to be. Who I really am. And the shame that had died down a little since Monday, hit me full force again. Suddenly everyone and everything around me started to feel unreal. And then the suicidal thoughts kicked in. I felt like nothing matters. What’s the point of life? Then the thought (judgement) that “there’s no reason for me to be feeling the way I am right now. Good things are happening. I have things to look forward to. I’m not supposed to be feeling depressed and suicidal. What the hell is wrong with me?” There were a few times that I felt tears well up, but tried to focus on what was going on in the group. There was a point when I couldn’t hold back that much, but I just hid my face and pretended to be looking at the worksheet I had in front of me. I may be more comfortable with talking and sharing, but I’m not at the point yet where I’m comfortable showing my emotions in front of more than one person.

I’m still going to be able to attend group next week, but will miss the next one, which is the last one for two weeks. D didn’t know whether she was going to be doing the group next week, or one of the other OT’s. So after group I asked her whether I could give her a hug in case I don’t see her for the next month or possibly longer. What started as a hug from me to her, a thank you for all she does and for the group last night, turned into her giving me a precious gift. And she doesn’t even know it.

I hugged her, and as I was starting to pull away, she held onto me and hugged me even tighter. I always pull away pretty quickly, and when I let go the other person also does. But she didn’t. And I’m so grateful, because it was what I needed. It felt warm, caring, and comforting. My whole body relaxed, and my mind just went quiet. I felt a deeper level of trust toward her, and sense of safety. It’s the quickest that suicidal and hopeless thoughts went away. It usually lasts at least a few hours, days, and sometimes even weeks. And it’s still gone.

On my way home, I cried all the way. I felt connected to the younger versions of myself. I experienced the pain of not having had the love and comfort I so desperately wanted and needed all those years. At how one deep hug could have such a big effect on me.

I feel like writing her an email and telling her about this, but not sure if I should. What do you guys think?

I wrote this in my personal journal last week, without intending to share it with anyone. But now it just feels right to do it. Strange how things work sometimes.

Letter To No One And Everyone

I need you to dig, to find those parts of me that even I can’t find.
I need you to help me see if there’s treasure hidden somewhere inside me.

Please sit beside me. Not a world away. Distance plays tricks on my mind.
Please see inside me. I can’t see me. But maybe you can.
Please hold my hand. Don’t pull away even when I initially try to.
Please hold me. If I try to pull away, don’t let go. Hold onto me.
Please be gentle with me. I’m tough, but also very fragile.

Can you feel the pain behind these words?
Can you see the tears that are falling as I’m writing this?
Can you hear my silent screams for comfort?

You may touch my heart.
But how can I trust that when I can’t feel the warmth of your touch?

That gentle touch that unlocks the door to my soul.
That healing touch that fills me with the strength I need to fight another day. That touch I ache for.
That can help break the bonds of harm that were created a long time ago.

A touch that heals, not destroys.
A dream… Unrealistic.
A voice deep inside whispers, “you don’t deserve it”.

D made me feel like maybe, just maybe, I do deserve it.

That’s the power of a hug.

Small Steps Towards Healthy Boundaries

Today was a good day. I managed to do a few things that I wanted to, and my mood has been relatively stable. I wasn’t happy, but I also wasn’t depressed or sad. Not empty either. Just normal. I can’t remember ever feeling like this. Perhaps the mood stabilizer is finally working. Whatever it is, after the depression that has been hanging around for the past month or so, this is a welcome relief. And I’m so incredibly grateful for it.

In my New Year post, I mentioned my goals for 2017. And today I’ve been thinking about my goal of setting healthy boundaries.

Boundaries have always been hard for me. I didn’t realize just how much, until I started therapy. At first, the boundaries in the therapeutic relationship made me feel hurt, angry and confused. But through the months, I’ve found that they provide me with a sense of safety and structure. My therapist knows I can cope with my emotions, and that I can deal with things that come up in my life. Hell, I’ve gotten through 32 years without her. Through some of the worst and most traumatic moments of my life, with little or no support. So I don’t need her to constantly be there for me. Besides, If I start to rely on her all the time, I’ll eventually stop putting in the effort of caring for myself. That being said, I still sometimes get annoyed with the boundaries, but those moments are few and far between. So this is an example of me needing to be respectful of other people’s boundaries. Which I’ve become quite good at. It’s not perfect, but still a big improvement.

Then there are my personal boundaries. And this is where I struggle the most. I’ve been trying to become aware of my limits. What makes me feel uncomfortable and unsafe. I’m still in the learning stage. But we have to start somewhere right? I need to start putting myself first more often. One of my current problems is discovering a boundary I need to set, but then being unable to fully implement it. I feel bad and guilty about having that boundary up. If someone pushes a little, I cave. But I can’t expect myself to become perfect at setting and sticking to them overnight. So I’m not going to be too hard on myself.

I came across this inspiring Ted talk today. It was just what I needed to hear.

Already Missing Her

Today I had my last therapy session for 2016.

The next time I’ll be seeing Therapist is on the 10th of January 2017. I know I’ll survive and that life will carry on as usual, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t miss her and think about her every day.

I’ve been having a lot of bad dreams about her going away. About me not being a part of her personal life. But on the other hand, I love this therapeutic relationship. It’s more intimate than any other relationship I’ve ever had, and I know that it wouldn’t be the same if we were friends, or even family. The therapeutic relationship is a very special type of relationship, and I treasure it.

A part of me feels abandoned by her. That she won’t be here for me during December, which is the worst time of the year for me. But that’s Emotion Mind speaking. Rational and Wise Mind knows that this break is important for her. This part is glad that she’s going to have a break and be able to recharge. That she’ll be spending time with those she loves. And that makes me feel happy. It’s just hard to reconcile the two parts at the same time. It’s either-or, depending on which frame of mind I’m in at that moment.

The fear of her not coming back in the new year is there too. The fear that she’ll forget about me. But I trust her more than I did in the beginning few months, thanks to her consistency. So that isn’t my main fear. Especially now that we’ve already set a date and time for our next session. That really helps as well. She also sent me a beautiful recording, which I’ll listen to whenever I feel I’m missing her too much and just want her to come back. I don’t want to forget her.

I think my biggest fear is that I’ll lose that connection I feel with her. What if when she comes back, I don’t feel that connection anymore? I tend to push people away and put a shield around my heart if I don’t see them for a while, or feel I’m going to be rejected. That way I won’t have to feel that intense longing or pain. But I don’t want to do that with her.

I told Therapist about all the plans I have in place for December. Constructive activities that will help me through this difficult time. Such as working on the book I’ve started writing, blogging, studying Psychology through those free online courses (MIT’s Introduction to Psychology, for example) and textbooks, reading through Marsha Linehan’s DBT Skills Training Manual (and practicing those skills). And most importantly, spending time with my girlfriend, who recently told me “I’ll be here. I’m not going anywhere”.

Trying to explain to someone (like my dad and stepmom) who just don’t get it, about how hard this is going to be for me, is like trying to explain physics to a three year old. Yes, I’m attached to my therapist. And maybe that’s not normal or understandable to most people. But it’s real to me. And it makes sense for me.

Going into this session, I knew it was going to be hard, but I didn’t expect the goodbye would hurt this much. I feel this overwhelming sense of loss, and I don’t know why.

I don’t want to see it as a “goodbye”. Instead, I choose to see it as “see you soon”.

Footprints

When I first heard this song a few days ago, it brought to mind my relationship with my therapist. It’s strange how I seem to be able to connect a lot of things to therapy.

Because of the boundaries that exist in any therapy relationship, there have been times where I felt like my therapist had ‘abandoned’ me. When she would push me, and encourage me to hold myself, and not become dependent on her to take care of me. That I needed to do that for myself, and was very capable of that. That I had made it through 30+ years without her. Sometimes those words hurt, and I felt that she didn’t really care. In my mind, I felt like I needed her to save me. Especially during periods of suicidal ideation. I want to be able to phone her at 2am and tell her to stop me from taking it further. But those damn boundaries. I know it’s not realistic to bother her after hours. But the emotional mind doesn’t think like that.

Since starting therapy, she’s been there for me every step of the way. She never left my side, even when I pushed her away, and tested her. She’s been my safe zone. When there’s a rupture, I panic and feel like she’s giving up on me and letting go of my hand. But I’m learning that just because there’s ‘conflict’ in a relationship, it’s not the end of the world. It doesn’t mean that the relationship will end.

She’s gotten me through many dark times. And even when I don’t see her for a while, the work we’ve already done together has made me stronger and better able to look after myself.

When I feel she doesn’t care enough, or isn’t there enough, the truth is very different. She’s still there. She’s still holding me. She still has my hand. I know she cares. Not just because she tells me she does, but also by her actions. She does so much for me. In a way, she is carrying me.

With the upcoming therapy break, a lot of emotions are coming up. Fear. Panic. Pain. Anxiety. How will I survive without her? What if she forgets about me? What if she doesn’t come back? We’ve been talking about the break and preparing for it, but that doesn’t make those feelings go away. There’s no magic pill for that. But I know that even though I won’t be able to see her, she’ll still be holding me in her heart.

She’s shown me time and time again that I can trust her. And I do. Sometimes my mind just needs to catch up to my heart.

 

The Healing Bond

In my post ‘The Therapeutic Relationship‘, I wrote about my connection with my therapist, and the fear that often accompanies it.

On Monday morning, in preparation for our session later that afternoon, I asked her to open up that post for our session (she has access to my blog). I wasn’t sure whether she had read it, but I thought it was important that she does.

Most of the session revolved around talking about our relationship, my fears and things I had left unsaid for so long. I didn’t run away from it this time. I fully embraced it. And I’m so glad I did.

I got to see a side of her that I’ve never seen before, a more vulnerable side, and it was absolutely beautiful. My heart just softened. I felt this overwhelming love for her, and warmth filled every part of me. That moment right there… That moment is one I’ll never forget. It’s etched in my memory forever.

One of the things I told her, is that I sometimes worry that I’ll be replaced by her other clients. That I won’t be important to her anymore. She put that fear to rest by saying that she’ll always make time for me. That she cares about me. It felt really good to hear that.

I also asked her whether she thought I was still making progress. Because I feel like I’m not. But I spent some time thinking about this since that session. And I reached the conclusion that I am making progress.

I’ll give two examples.

I never really had boundaries with people in my life. In my head yes, but I was unable to communicate and enforce them. Now, thanks to this healing relationship, I’m starting to become better at it. I wasn’t even aware of it at first, it came so gradually. I still have a way to go, but there’s definitely progress.

Since I started seeing her at the beginning of March this year, I had this obsessive attachment to her. I would bombard her with emails. When she went on vacation for about a week, late in April, that didn’t stop me. I even sent her an angry email. I felt so embarrassed and ashamed, and what did I do? More emails. I was in crisis mode.

She always had an open policy, where I could contact her anytime. But I took it too far. I misused it greatly. In the last email she sent me during her vacation, she wrote that she feels strongly that we should have no contact between sessions, or have two sessions a week. But I couldn’t afford two sessions a week, so that was out.

I was devastated. I felt that the connection we had, had just been shattered. She had broken my heart. She had taken something away from me. I felt rejected and abandoned. When we had our next session, she was open to discussing this, and we reached a compromise. I could contact her during working hours. No nights or weekends. I still wasn’t happy with that arrangement, but it was better than absolutely no contact between sessions.

In our session on Monday, we revisited this topic. I told her that I don’t want this boundary anymore. That it hurts. That I’m jealous of all her other clients who don’t have this boundary. As usual, she listened and took to heart what I was telling her. She said that April is long gone, and she’s willing to give it a try and drop the boundary. I asked her whether she thinks I won’t misuse it this time. I liked her answer. She said that we know one another well by now, and she believes I won’t.

And I don’t plan to. I don’t want to use it unless I have to reschedule a session. It’s not about a boundary. It’s about me respecting her time. I want her to have her evenings and weekends to unwind and enjoy. And you know what? I’m actually glad she had set that boundary, because I grew from it. I learned from it. I learned to hold myself between sessions. To sit with my emotions and thoughts. To self soothe. I don’t feel the need to contact her in the evenings and on weekends, even though for some reason those are the hardest times for me. That is progress.

After this session, I feel an even deeper bond, a closer connection.

I want to encourage all of you going through therapy to be open and honest with your therapist about your feelings regarding the relationship. It’s so important for the healing process.

The universe has handed me a lot of shit, but it seems to have made up for it by connecting me to this amazing therapist.

The Familiar Taste Of Poison

This song represents a few different things for me.

We long to be free. But during agonizing, vulnerable times, we’re unable to resist the pull.

The Familiar Taste of Poison

“Drink the wine, my darling” you said
“Take your time, and consume all of it”
But the roses were only to drain my inspiration
The promises were spoiled before they left your lips

And I breathe you in again
Just to feel you underneath my skin
Holding onto, the sweet escape
Is always laced with the familiar taste
Of poison

I tell myself that you’re no good for me
I wish you well, but desire never leaves
I could fight this till the end
But maybe I don’t wanna win

I breathe you in again
Just to feel you underneath my skin
Holding onto, the sweet escape
Is always laced with the familiar taste
Of poison

I don’t wanna be saved
I don’t wanna be sober
I want you on my mind
In my dreams, behind these eyes
And I won’t wake up
No not this time

I breathe you in again
Just to feel you underneath my skin
Holding onto, the sweet escape
Is always laced with the familiar taste
Of poison

A familiar taste of poison